Now, the grand reopening of the completely remodeled Camp Randall is fast approaching. The changes in store for 2005 are not as grand as last year's additions, but the finished product, which will be officially revealed when Bowling Green visits the Badgers Sept. 3, is remarkable.
"I think fans are going to be surprised at the back-of-the-house improvements that they didn't realize were still to come," said Doug Beard, UW's associate athletic director for administration.
The biggest change for 2005, Beard said, is how fans will enter the stadium and what they will see upon their arrival. The stadium's entryways have all been renumbered, and now start with Gate 1 in front of Kellner Hall at the southeast corner of the stadium, along Monroe Street, and wrap around to Gate 10 at the southwest corner, along Breese Terrace.
Decorative fencing and landscaping has been added around much of the stadium, an archway has been added near the front of Kellner Hall, and a new football-themed façade graces the stadium wall along Breese Terrace. Rather than an exterior fence on Breese Terrace, there are two new "grand staircases" leading up to the large entryways at Gates 8 and 9.
An inner track used to separate the field from the stands and serve as the access point to the lower bowl. The south end of the track, though, was removed prior to last season, and the rest has now been removed.
"We now are in compliance with the actual rules for football with a 10-yard runoff in the corners (of the end zones)," Beard said. "We never were before."
The removal of the track was part of the process of turning the historic venue into an entirely back-loaded stadium, as was carving new portals into the east and west stands.
The most obvious change inside the stadium on game days, though, will be the modifications to the student section at the north end of the stadium. The UW band has been moved off the field and into the stands, and will occupy about 400 of what used to be general student section seats. Two cross aisles, at rows 19 and 48, stretch across the length of the student section — a safety feature suggested in the Kaiser Report 11 years ago in response to the 1993 tragedy when students toppled one another while trying to storm the field following a win over Michigan.
"It decreases the density of some of the section areas," Beard said. "It prevents downward flow of 70 rows of patrons."
To make up for the lost seats that resulted from the north end adjustments, the student section has expanded into Section J and still encompasses Sections K through P.
The 1,000 general public season tickets that were in Section J have now been moved to locations in the upper deck and south end zone, and the tickets allotted to visiting teams has shrunk from about 4,000 to about 3,000.
Other changes in store for 2005 include a reconstructed third-level concourse on the east side of the stadium that connects with the renovated third-level concourse on the north side and wraps around to the renovated first-level concourse on the west side. The first-level concourse on the east side of the stadium has also been renovated, including the addition of a new dining facility, or "training table" that is used by the football, volleyball and women's hockey teams.
Like the concourses that were built in time for 2004 (the fifth-level east side concourse and the two concourses on the south end near the Field House), this season's new and improved concourses are replete with new or remodeled restroom facilities and concession stands.
"We've got a terrific reaction from all the fans last year and its only improved going into this year," Beard said. "And particularly for the west-side fans that didn't see a lot of the renovation… last year. They enjoyed the scoreboard and the field turf was there, but now they have the extra bathrooms, the remodeled bathrooms, the additional concession stands."
The 88-year-old stadium has come a long way. Since the renovation began:
- About 319,000 square feet of new construction area has been added. This includes the three levels of club seats or luxury boxes on the east side of the stadium; Kellner Hall, which houses athletic department administrative offices and coaches offices for all sports aside from football, men's and women's basketball, men's hockey and rowing; football offices on the eighth floor of the northeast corner of the stadium; the new concourses; and the athletic ticket office building next to Kellner Hall.
- About 84,400 square feet of space has been renovated, including the press box, remodeled concourses, entryways, and other existing structures.
- Total bathroom fixtures have gone from 212 to 463 for women and 445 to 499 for men.
- Concession "point-of-sales" went from 135 to 157.
- In 2003, the official seating capacity was 76,634. In 2004, it was 81,318. The number for 2005, however, is still in flux, though it is expected to be somewhere between 80,000 and 80,500.
The Cullen-Smith construction crews are currently in cleanup mode, getting the final landscaping and signage work done and moving out equipment. Camp Randall should be ready for its public unveiling during an open house Saturday (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and Family Fun Day Sunday (3-5 p.m.) prior to its formal grand reopening Sept. 3.
"I'm excited for the fans to walk in," Beard said. "I remember last year on family fun day watching the faces of our fans coming down through the portals and onto the field for the first time to see everything we've done. That was the best feeling I've had watching their faces, and probably the same thing this year."